Opinion: Perspective - Dentsu must kill off the ghost of CDP to succeed

It looks like the end of an era, though one which may mean absolutely nothing to anyone in this business under the age of 40.

One of the greatest names of British advertising is set to bite the tarmac: CDP, an agency that spawned a fair chunk of British advertising's most legendary characters and a fair chunk of our best-loved ads.

Really, the heritage is phenomenal. From heroes such as Sir Frank Lowe, Charles Saatchi, Sir Alan Parker, to campaigns such as Hamlet, Heineken, Benson & Hedges and Hovis, no other agency before or since has had quite such a profound effect on shaping the industry as we know it today.

Now the name will be laid to rest in the new year. Of course, if you've only been in the business a handful of years and haven't immersed yourself in the industry's history, the most CDP will mean to you is a middling London agency with an unremarkable creative reputation.

Yet ironically, what CDP has had, since 1990, is a parent company with the potential to be a major global player. The Japanese advertising giant Dentsu paid extremely handsomely for the agency, which promptly lost its flagship Toyota account leaving the new owners shocked and dismayed. It wasn't a great start for Dentsu's assault on London and the company has made little impact ever since. But then exactly two years ago, Dentsu said of its London presence that it was "in the process of strategising for a prominent presence in this important market". Twenty-four months later, it seems we're about to see the results.

Dentsu is still reckoned to derive more than 90 per cent of its revenue from Japan, and has not replicated its enormous success there around the world. Bringing the brand, finally, to London might be a fundamental shift to make that right.

Few doubt that it would now be kinder to put the CDP brand out of its misery, although the agency itself is in reasonable health. In fact, insiders say Dentsu wouldn't risk stamping its own name above the door unless the agency was doing well. But merely importing the Dentsu name will not be enough.

Dentsu needs to move quickly if it is to create something new and exciting around its own brand name. As always, people will be key. Remember Wieden & Kennedy's UK debut? Despite the agency's tremendous reputation outside the UK, until it found the right team to run the UK operation the brand struggled embarrassingly.

Dentsu's reputation doesn't have quite the same magic as W&K's and rejuvenating the management team will be even more vital. Hiring Andy Lockley from Fallon as the creative director is a great start, although the CDP of recent years has been known to kill more creative careers than it's made so there must be other fundamental changes too.

Perhaps most important of all, if the Denstu name is to revive the agency, it must ensure that all traces of CDP are buried. CDP was a brilliant agency at a moment in time, a moment that bears scant relation to advertising as it is today.

Any echoes of the past will serve no purpose now for a new Dentsu agency. CDP RIP.

Is another great agency brand about to disappear, at least in its current form?

Rumours were fevered this week about the future of Beattie McGuinness Bungay. The fledgling agency says that it is having lots of conversations with potential suitors but insists it's not bent on a sale. Omnicom is similarly evasive.

But ask the team over at TBWA, the rumour mill's favoured home for the BMB brand, and the deal might as well be done for all the despair that's being felt by the staff.

It would be a smart deal, but maybe nothing will come of it. What's clear is that a delicate TBWA, slowly recovering, has been plunged again into turmoil and confusion. You have to feel for the people there.


You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now


Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Become a member of Campaign

Get the latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now